How did you get your first job as a journalist?
My first break in the media industry was landing a job as a trainee news reporter at the Knutsford Guardian, which is a local weekly newspaper. Like a lot of people who work in the media, I landed the job by signing up to do work experience with my hometown’s local newspaper, the Sale and Altringham Messenger. When the job came up in Knutsford, the editor in Sale recommended that I went for the interview and I presumably impressed the Knutsford editor enough to get my first job. So it was really about hard work and effort. Work experience paved the way.
How has the media industry changed since then?
In terms of finding work, I don’t think the landscape has changed too much for graduates who roll up their sleeves and are prepared to take opportunities outside of their studies. Studies are important, they give you grounding and knowledge as well as training and skills to do the job. But now it’s even more important to take on work experience or one-off projects. The main obstacle is impressing the employer before you get to the job interview.
What are the challenges facing graduates now?
The proliferation of digital and online media has presented a different challenge, but also a very exciting one. On one hand there’s a desire from the industry to see students produce a lot of content, so they’ve almost got to work a bit harder. But on the other hand it’s exciting because students have got the opportunity to blog and use social media and build a really powerful presence.
What qualities have impressed you about Salford graduates?
It’s their determination to do well. I also think that our students have a real desire to get their hands dirty – they have a thirst for working in the industry while they’re here. A lot of our best graduates do this and also take up opportunities that come through the University.
Are there any major pitfalls to avoid when trying to get into the industry?
There are many pitfalls: for one, professionalism and courtesy is really important. If someone helps you on an email, email them back and say thank you. When you go on work placements, show that organisation that you’ve researched what they’re about. You can quickly lose the respect of potential employers if you don’t do some basic homework or show a lack of professional courtesy. I also think it’s not enough now to just get a degree. You’ve got to get a good degree from a good institution like Salford, but you also need to build up your CV. Students who ignore that will find it a lot harder than students who fully engage with outside opportunities.
What three pieces of advice would you give someone wanting to break into the industry?
First of all, engage with every external opportunity you have. This is really important, because it not only builds up your skills and confidence, but also allows you to network and meet potential employers. Secondly, don’t be put off. We’ve all had knockbacks, whether that’s applying for jobs or pursuing stories. Instead of being disheartened, go back to the person and say, “I didn’t make it this time, could you give me any tips?” People respect that. The third one is make sure you’re multi-skilled. Writing is still crucial but being able to use video, audio and engage fully with social media and mobile technology is equally as important. You need the whole package now to be an effective journalist.
You can get more information on how to break into the media industry at The Daily Telegraph Academy Day on Tuesday 3 May. Speakers from The Daily Telegraph will be delivering workshops from 12:00 – 17:30 at MediaCityUK.